WHAT IS JUST? AN EXAMINATION OF PUNISHMENT AND GRACE

An issue that restorative justice faces is the opinion that to forgive, to even hope that a criminal can be put back into a community, to live and function and learn to associate with mainstream, is horrific. After all, once a man or woman crosses the legal line, especially in felonious cases, doesn't the person lose all rights to live amongst the general populace?

According to supporters of restorative justice, to define any human being as some sort of creature who belongs in a cage is to take away his or her humanity — not to mention what he may be able to give back to his victim, should he be allowed a chance to operate and become, even if for the first time, productive.

Such issues come down to simple basic questions: Do prisons deter criminals? Are offenders punished because they deserve to be punished, or are they punished beyond an appropriate time span, to make a social point?

Reformist Chuck Colson has his own story, suggesting possible answers.

“My first day in prison remains vivid in my memory, particularly the moment I was ushered into the office of my case-worker, the official who had my life in his hands. If this bureaucrat was intimidated to be facing the former special counsel to the President of the United States, he didn't show it. ‘All right, Colson,’ he said, leaning back in his government-issued swivel chair. ‘Let me tell

-37-

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